It was a lovely autumn day as my daughter, Rebecca, and I drove to Surrey the day before my latest fashion shoot. As we drove down the M1, we enjoyed a superb sunset. I noted the time, for scheduling the next day’s shoot.
After checking into our hotel, we joined fashion designer, Lacry Puravu, who took us to look at locations and then to a very good Thai restaurant, where we planned the following day’s shoot, and enjoyed a fab supper.
It was a bright and very cold November morning for our outdoors location fashion shoot. We were to shoot in the woods near the designer’s home in Virginia Water and in the grounds of beautiful Royal Holloway University campus.
After a hearty cooked breakfast in our hotel and after loading all the kit into my car, we joined the team at Lacry’s home. Aga Malinowska and Sonya Kaur were our makeup artists. They were very busy making their magic.
Sonya was very busy pre-preparing some fab black false nails with jewels and gold decorations for the afternoon shoot. Aga was doing the makeup for our lovely model, Ana Maria Atofanei, for the first shoot. However, our other model telephoned to say she would be unable to join us. We were faced with a fashion shoot with just 50% of the required models. So Lacry volunteered to step into the breach as our second model.
Woodland Fashion Shoot
Bright sunlight was shining through the trees, which was not ideal for our proposed theme. So, I went for, contra jour lighting and resisted the temptation to use much flash. Ana Maria wore a lovely handmade dress, which was unlikely to keep her warm on such a day. However, it looked beautiful with the autumn leaves all about, and falling from the branches above, with some help from our team.
After shooting a set of dress shots we made some headshots for the makeup artist’s portfolio. For these, I added a touch of very subtle flash, using my battery powered Elinchrom Quadra ELB 400 HS with a Rotalux 1 meter Deep Octa light shaper.
Rebecca busied herself shooting loads of lovely behind the scenes production stills and managing the laptop.
Some fashion models have a rep for being divas but Ana Maria was a dream to work with. She must have been frozen but not a word of complaint.
I was fine, of course. But then I was dressed for it: thermal long johns, thick socks, boots, and Berghaus coat. Not glamorous, but I was toasty!
Lunch and Prep for the second shoot
Then back to the house for a spot of lunch, chile con carne, lovely, cooked and served by Tim. He was a charming and brilliant host. Ana Maria must have been delighted to get warm again. Meanwhile, the team members were undertaking a change of makeup and clothes.
Next, Ana Maria was to wear a long black skirt with gold trim, a black top with beautiful bejewelled collar and cuffs and a black leather belt.
Lacry would be in an antique gold satin blouse and a matching satin skirt with black lace over. Our theme for the afternoon/evening shoot was to be “Duchess”. The Royal Holloway University would be a very palatial setting. Once again, we were limited to exterior locations. The mood would be determined by the clothes, of course, but also very much by the setting and the light.
Royal Holloway University Fashion Shoot
Whilst the team completed the makeup and dressing, Rebecca and I mobilised to Royal Holloway. We made final decisions about, which locations to use and the shoot order. Thinking done, it was time to set up the kit.
Being late November, the shoot outdoors, and photography starting as the sun set, we were into evening light and even lower temperatures. I did a couple of test shots featuring Rebecca as a stand-in model and decided the stair case in front of the uni would provide our first set-ups. Of course a staircase provides at least two very different angles and different backgrounds, with minimal delays whilst resetting between the angles.
The first shot was looking down the beautiful stone stairs with the woods in the background. The sun was setting as we shot these pictures but unfortunately, it was setting behind the clouds, and so there was no sign of the magic hour light that Rebecca and I had enjoyed exactly 24 hours earlier. So, my ELB 400 flash, with a 1 meter Deep Octa, was pressed into action. With a golden gel in place, it would give us a rich sunset, which I figured would work beautifully with the colours of the antique gold coloured satin blouse and skirt worn by Lacry, and our Duchess theme.
Then, the second shot just required repositioning to the bottom of the stairs to shoot upwards. With the magnificent university building behind, in the dark blue of twilight, there was no chance to create a sunset. So, I just went for high impact light. I positioned Lacry on the stairs in a beautiful pool of light. The antique gold clothes against the twilight blue is a very powerful combination. Our fashion shoot’s theme, “Duchess” realised perfectly.
Third and Fourth Shots
Then into the quadrangle for our third and fourth set-ups of the afternoon. Lacry first, followed by Ana Maria. We were in the cloisters with lovely stone columns, and in the background the far facade of the quadrangle, out of focus and dark with warm light shining through the massive Georgian windows, a superb setting.
Sitting and standing shots done, I shot more headshots for our wonderful makeup artists Aga and Sonya.
Set up 5
The final shoot of the day was of Ana Maria in a cocktail dress, a shorter version of the one featured in the morning woodland shoot.
Aga styled the makeup for a glamorous evening event. The dress, and Ana Maria, looked beautiful as she posed with the bright, rich, and warm window light in the darkness behind her. My ELB and Deep Octa provided gorgeous light on her and the dress.
That’s a Wrap
“That’s a wrap.” And so the coldest fashion shoot of my career ended. And I am sure Ana Maria, in particular, must have been delighted to hear those words. Very kindly, the girls helped organise and carry the kit back to my car and it was time for a hot tea before saying our goodbyes, and the long drive home.
Clearly, creativity, technical skill, photographic knowledge, experience, and people skills are the most important components of any photographer’s work, but there is no getting away from it, kit matters. It influences what we can, and can not do artistically and the technical quality we can achieve.
Camera and Lenses
My Canon 5Ds, with its 50-megapixel resolution, and the latest L series professional lenses proved their worth on this shoot, producing gorgeous ultra-high resolution images with beautiful colour reproduction, as they always do.
However, the star of the tech show was the battery powered Elinchom Quadra, ELB 400 HS. This is a fantastic tool, providing the best in studio quality lighting with massive amounts of power but great flexibility. So, subtle or dramatic results can be produced on locations without mains power.
The light is controlled and triggered wirelessly by a Skyport Plus HS unit mounted on the camera. This makes for a very slick and convenient system. It affords me the luxury of shooting the most beautiful quality flash lit images with essentially any shutter speed and aperture combination. Therefore, I can balance the amount of flash I use with the available light, in any way I want, freeing-up my creativity as was never before possible.
As if all that is not enough, the ELB’s HS head takes all the superb Elinchrom studio light shapers, so it can be used on almost any assignment, anywhere, without compromising the quality of the light in any way.
As a bonus, the ELB kit weighs very, very little. I carry a second battery in my ELB 400’s case. It adds next to no weight, so why wouldn’t I? Having said that, so far, I have never needed it.
I have worked with Elinchrom studio lighting since the earliest days of my business, in the 1980s, and they have generally been utterly superb products. Although I have several of Elinchrom’s most modern flash heads, I still use Elinchrom 66 monoblocks, 101 studio packs and S heads, which I bought when I opened my first studio more than 35 years ago. They are engineered to last. But, and it is a big but, the Elinchrom Quadra ELB 400 HS with battery powering, studio quality light, and control and triggering by wireless remote technology, is quite simply a game changer. I love it.
And hot off the presses, the very latest product, that makes all the above kit work together perfectly, the Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-U-EL exposure meter. This meter wirelessly triggers Elinchrom wireless flash units over a considerable range. Brilliant.